Tiger Woods will not be playing in the US Masters for the first time since 1994 so he will not dominate the news agenda at Augusta National this week. The first major championship of the season is devalued somewhat by the non-participation of the current world number but this is still major with a number of players with a genuine chance of winning it.
In current odds order here are the main contenders:
Rory McIlroy is the bookmaker’s favourite in the absence of Woods and may have been so even if Tiger was playing. A final round 80 when leading by four shots was dreadful experience for McIlroy in 2011 but three months later he won the US Open by eight shots. He has a moderate record in the Masters but surely must win a green jacket throughout his career during which he could join an elite group of players to have won the career Grand Slam. There is more contentment on and off the course and McIlroy is a worthy favourite this week.
Adam Scott is the defending champion and now at number two in the world rankings. He won two out of three of the Australian majors this season and despite a light schedule in the States can contend again. Scott has the best recent course form of the entire field and experience counts for a great deal at Augusta. However, he dose not appear in the top 50 in the US Tour statistics for the key areas of driving distance, greens in regulation, scrambling and putting. He would not be an identikit winner but that also was the case last year when he won his first major.
Phil Mickelson has won the US Masters three times and five majors in total. After winning the British Open last summer he is now three-quarters of the way to a career Grand Slam that has been achieved by only five players in the history of the game. The US Open is the title he craves most to complete the set but another US Masters would confirm Mickelson as the best player of his generation after Woods. If Tiger had not come on the scene Mickelson would have won more majors but he can still join the greats if he were to win the Masters for the fourth time.
Jason Day appears to be a major champion in waiting and the US Masters could provide his best chance of winning one of the four most prestigious titles in golf. He is proven at the highest level this season having won a World Golf Championship event, though it was in the match play format. Day was placed behind Charl Schwartzel three years ago and contended in 2013 so is due a win at Augusta. His record at the course excellent despite not having the best skills profile for this week’s challenge. He has faltered when in contention for majors in the past but looks certain to win one over the next three years.
Sergio Garcia almost won the US PGA Championship as a teenager in 1999. At that time he looked destined to begin winning majors in his twenties but it just never happened. He has been in contention several times but putting has been a problem at the business end of majors. His claw putting grip looks awkward but he gets the ball in the hole which is the objective. Garcia has had sabbaticals from the game but has now recaptured his enthusiasm and best form. El Nino could finally reach golfing maturity if he wins the Masters this week.
Matt Kuchar had a four shot lead ahead of the final round of the Houston Open last Sunday but lost in a play-off to Matt Every. During the tournament he was backed for the US Masters as punters latched on to a player in form with decent course form who also has a good skill’s profile. He has made his last four cuts on the PGA Tour and played over the weekend at the last two Masters tournaments. His attributes’ profile makes him a contender on a course that suits his game, especially around the demanding greens.
Dustin Johnson has the best skills profile of the entire field and is one of just four players in the top 50 for the significant attributes, the others being McIlroy, Justin Rose and Bubba Watson. Johnson won the opening Tournament of Champions this season and recorded several other high finishes in the States. He is another player with the ability to win a major and he won’t be lacking for nerve if he is contention on Sunday afternoon. He has made the cut in his last three Masters without contending but a high finish is expected this year.
Bubba Watson won the US Masers in 2012 after playing one of the best shots in the history of the tournament in the play-off with Louis Oosthuizen. His form dipped after making a major championship breakthrough and he may have lost some hunger. However, Watson has won a regular tournament this season and in Woods and Mickelson there have been multiple winners in recent Masters. He combines length of the tee with good greens in regulation stats and his excellent short game confirms him as a player with a good skill’s profile for this week’s challenge.
Henrik Stenson won the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai last season and his caddie said he hardly missed a shot in three months. He had a great chance to win the US PGA Championship but on a key hole on the back nine in the final round he found a divot which potentially cost him two shots. He lost a fortune in a failed business investment but won it all back on the course. Stenson is another player with better than average stats for driving distance and greens in regulation and also has a decent short game so he has all the right skills for Augusta.
Justin Rose figures in the top 50 on either the PGA or European Tour for the key skills areas so looks well suited to Augusta and the Masters. He won the US Open last year so is proven at major championship level. He has figured in the Masters in the past and has the game to win the green jacket at least one time in his career. He has made his last two cuts and played 72 holes in his last five Masters appearances so combines current and course form and the attributes to contend.
Zach Johnson won the US Masters in 2007 with the highest winning score in the period from 1980. Conditions meant a one over par total was good enough. The average winning score over the last six years has been 11 under so the scoring was exceptionally high when Johnson won. The key to his success was wedge play which meant he could lay up on the par 5s. Since the win Johnson has a poor record in the Masters and the potential low scoring week may count against him.
Charl Schwartzel won the US Masters in 2011 after he birdied the last four holes. In that context it is surprising that his putting became something of a weakness and any lack of confidence in that area will be found out at Augusta. However, he now looks back to his best on the greens and when missing them his scrambling skills will be important. Schwartzel is above average in length off the tee but no more than average for greens in regulation. However, he is a proven champion at Augusta so knows he can contend on the course when playing at his best.
On Par Profits